KILLING METAPHYSICS?

puzzled

Killing metaphysics? Well, that is what he said, I thought that curious enough to make a post out of it.

Out of what exactly? Well, I wrote a comment here explaining why I don’t think science and technology have progressed over the last 100 years as much as we would like to think. That provoked a surprising response from tildeb  (here) that I will dissect on this post.   attributes progress to the destruction of religious thought.  Here is how  began.

The Renaissance and Enlightenment came about by killing metaphysics. (from here)

For a definition of metaphysics, click on the link. It seems to me that  has only a vague idea what the word means.

Then it got more interesting.

This death by a million cuts came about by changing the method used to investigate how reality actually worked. Galileo – the giant upon whose shoulders Newton claims to have stood – removed its cornerstone – the idea that things had ‘natures’ that caused effect upon reality – and used evidence from reality to inform claims made about it. This was the birth of the scientific revolution and it was to challenge religious authority directly and fracture it into thousands of pieces. (from here)

Both Galileo and Newton were serious students of the Bible. The reference to Galileo is actually misleading. Supposedly, Galileo and the Catholic Church had a feud over whether the sun is at the center of our solar system. In the sense the sun actually is at the center of our solar system Galileo was right. However, church authorities were correct to reject Galileo’s flawed arguments (see Galileo affair). That is, Galileo was right, but his proof was wrong.

The dispute Galileo had with the church ultimately had more to do politics than science. In arguing for his position (in a Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems), Galileo foolishly irked the pope, prior to his publication a friend.

Apparently, without intending to offend, Galileo put the pope’s words into the mouth of a fool (in his book). The pope was not then a good target for satire. Church authorities let Galileo continue his work, but they kept someone they probably regarded as a reckless hot head out of their hair by keeping him under house arrest.

Anyway,  elaborated.

Of course, it didn’t hurt his reputation to know ahead of all others which ships were about to arrive in port… thus demonstrating the economic benefit to befall those who dared to use products from this method. It didn’t hurt his reputation to vastly improve the accuracy for artillery by understanding how trajectories actually worked. It didn’t hurt clock making and time pieces essential for navigation to better refine how pendulums were actually affected by a rotating earth. Each of these cuts to the metaphysical nonsense that produced a millennium of widespread ignorance and stupidity about how reality worked contrary to and incompatible with the products Galileo effectively used demonstrated that this new method might have unlimited potential for creating all kinds of applications, therapies, and technologies that would from that point on hammer home the coffin nails into realty-immune metaphysics. (from here)

Here  obscures his point with too many fancy turns of phrase. I think he means to point to the superiority of mathematical models of cause and effect over “the idea that things had ‘natures’ that caused effect upon reality.” What is funny about that is that  “the idea that things had ‘natures’ that caused effect upon reality” has next to nothing to do with a belief in God. Superstition is not the product of religion. Superstition comes from the belief that the universe is without order. For example, without believing in God, we can still believe that things: old trees, ancient rocks, big bears and so forth, have a mind of their own. Without believing in God, we can still believe that life formed on this earth all by itself. Maybe the spirit of the earth (Gaia) just wanted it that way.

On the other hand, Christianity teaches there is only One God, that God is orderly, and He expects us to be orderly.

1 Corinthians 14:33 New King James Version (NKJV)

33 For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.

Hence, the primary reason Christians, not Atheists, invented the scientific method is that God told us He had invented an orderly universe. Until Christians demonstrated the scientific method actually works, Atheists had no expectation of an orderly universe.

That, however, does not stop  from asserting otherwise.

But because religion relied on this methodological nonsense for its claims to temporal authority and supposed knowledge about how reality worked, we still have to this day the heavy reliance on metaphysics for religious thought. That’s why religious thought today is fundamentally anti-enlightenment, anti-scientific thinking that yields to knowledge only grudgingly while continuing to tilt at windmills and claiming to do this necessary battle on behalf of all. (from here)

Think about the sheer stubbornness required to assert something like the above. Christians invented the scientific method.  Under Christian influence, Enlightenment ideas resulted the formation American republic, the spread of religious freedom across Christendom, and eventually an end to slavery. Nevertheless, even though only a Christian society would forebear with such attacks from  , that does not stop  from ignorantly attacking Christianity with hate-filled vehemence.  Why does  do that? I am not certain. Even someone who calls himself an Atheist can still love his neighbor enough to disagree without being disagreeable.

15 thoughts on “KILLING METAPHYSICS?

  1. Solid fact? That’s rich, considering that facts are exactly what’s missing from supporting religious beliefs!

    Aristotelian physics is based on an assumption that the physical world, which could be experienced by the senses, contained and underlying metaphysical essence, which could be experienced only by the mind. In this model, what the human senses recognized by sight, sound, taste, smell and touch were the physical expressions of an object’s nature, that is to say quiddity, or essence.

    What do I mean by metaphysics? “The systematic study or science of the first principles of being and knowledge; the doctrine of the essential nature and fundamental relations of all that is real.” What are the first principles of being or knowledge? The first principles are the elements (earth, water, fire, air) and are used by Aristotle to mean ‘Boundless’ which are “primary substances that never age, can never be surpassed, and produce everything always. They form the ground or foundation of the world, since everything rests on them. They are the beginnings to which everything individual and particular goes back and out of which it is made.”

    Aristotelian physics and scholastic peripatetic philosophy recognized that the sensible world was always changing. The physical world, and by extension the physical senses, could not truthfully reflect reality, nor could the senses alone be trusted to reveal reality. Only the mind could be relied on to grasp what did not change, understand what remained immutable and beyond the Boundless, comprehend the metaphysical nature of the world and all that was eternally true and everlastingly perfect. Plato differentiated between knowing the changing world through the senses, which he called Belief, and contemplating “the realities themselves as they are for ever in the same unchanging state,” which he called Knowledge. It should come as no surprise, then, to learn what he thought of the study of astronomy and how astronomy should be studied:

    “In this way. These intricate traceries in the sky are, no doubt, the loveliest and most perfect of material things, but still part of the visible world, and therefore they fall far short of the true realities – the real relative velocities, in the world of pure number and all perfect geometrical figures, of the movements which carry round the bodies involved in them. These, you will agree, can be conceived by reason and thought, not seen by the eye.”

    Plato called the true realities of all things ‘Forms’, which could only be known by reason and thought. What the senses revealed was the expression of the essence of the Form. Thus, within each sensible object or body resided its nature, and the expression of its eternal and unchanging essence.

    Aristotelian physics can be understood to link the physically changing world to an underlying philosophy that accepts Platonic Forms as an established truth. This is what the early church fathers took on board as their explanatory model for Christian theology and maintained to this day. It is a model about reality based on assumption and assertion that is factually wrong and demonstrably so.

    Things don’t have natures; they only have physical properties.

    This is why Galileo’s contribution removed this cornerstone upon which inquiries into reality were previously done – utilizing metaphysics rather than reality! – and why it caused such a furor in the Church when Galileo demonstrated it to be exactly backwards. The though experiment done by the character Salviati in Galileo’s book (Dialogue on the Two Chief World Systems, Ptolemaic and Copernican) sets us up to read of the metaphysical model that produced the Ptolemaic explanation and the mathematical model utilizing data from reality alone that produced the Copernican explanation.

    How did he do it?

    It was really quite simple: what would happen if we rolled a smooth ball down an inclined plane? Seems innocent enough. The purpose of the thought experiment was to show that the ball behaved in a predictable way depending on the angle of the inclined plane.

    Remember, movement was understood in Aristotelian physics to require agency, a Mover, a guiding agent of purpose and intention. The movement was considered powerful evidence for hidden agencies because no one knew how movement could come about without some intelligent design at work guiding this movement. And we continue to read this same assumption in theological arguments to this day about the necessity for a First Cause, a Prime Mover, and so on. It’s a metaphysical argument disconnected from the reality it tries to describe and explain, one that continues to utilize a discredited explanatory model.

    Removing all frictional forces in an extension of the thought experiment, Salviati asks another character named Simplicio, who represented the accepted scientific view of the peripatetic philosopher (including Galileo’s very good friend the Pope), to draw the necessary conclusions. This was the hammer that removed the cornerstone of Aristotelian physics and threatened the temporal authority of the Church. The Ptolemaic system was wrong because the model used an assumption about causes that were factually wrong. Movement didn’t require agency. Galileo showed that things don’t have essences or natures that reflect some heretofore nebulous realm of forms exerting magical influences from beyond the natural world to cause celestial movement (hence the correct use of the term supernatural to describe these supposedly causal links); sensible objects simply have physical properties that respond to predictable and knowable and encompassing forces. These forces are not guided but are produced by the interaction of physical properties alone. Specifically the movement of the ball was dependent on the inclined plane and its speed relative to the angle of the plane. In other words and extended throughout the universe, no god is necessary. So much for theology that rests its justification on Aristotelian physics.

    Welcome to the modern world. Reality – and not our metaphysical beliefs about it – is the arbitrator for claims made about it.

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    1. tildeb –

      Word Games
      You have probably heard this Latin phrase: Cogito ergo sum. That’s a philosophical proposition by René Descartes. In English, the proposition is: “I am thinking, therefore I exist.” Descartes’ proposition, of course, falls under that branch of Philosophy we call Metaphysics. In fact, Descartes’ proposition is what I would call a starting point in Metaphysics.

      Christian theologians, really the only philosophers in the West for about a thousand years after the fall of Rome, preserved and adopted much of classical Greek thinking. That included Plato, who had some rather strange ideas.

      Did the early church err by preserving and borrowing upon Greek literature? Of course not. For example, doesn’t everything have its own “nature”? Isn’t the nature of a thing defined by its properties?

      Plato’s forms is basically just a metaphysical approach for establishing what can be known about things (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theory_of_Forms#Evidence_of_Forms). Perhaps Plato goes too mystical on us, but what he describes is in fact the way language works. When one of us says or writes a word, those hearing or reading that word generate in their mind the “form” or idea we associate with that word. When hear someone say the word tree, for example, we form the “idea” or the form of a tree in our minds.

      Even though though he wrote on religion, David Hume (1711 – 1776) obscured his religious views (religious persecution being common in his day). Nevertheless, he wrote something you will no doubt find relevant.

      Let men be once fully perswaded of these two principles, THAT THERE, IS NOTHING IN ANY OBJECT, CONSIDERed IN ITSELF, WHICH CAN AFFORD US A REASON FOR DRAWING A CONCLUSION BEYOND it; and, THAT EVEN AFTER THE OBSERVATION OF THE FREQUENT OR CONSTANT CONJUNCTION OF OBJECTS, WE HAVE NO REASON TO DRAW ANY INFERENCE CONCERNING ANY OBJECT BEYOND THOSE OF WHICH WE HAVE HAD EXPERIENCE; I say, let men be once fully convinced of these two principles, and this will throw them so loose from all common systems, that they will make no difficulty of receiving any, which may appear the most extraordinary. These principles we have found to be sufficiently convincing, even with regard to our most certain reasonings from causation: But I shall venture to affirm, that with regard to these conjectural or probable reasonings they still acquire a new degree of evidence. (from http://www.gutenberg.org/files/4705/4705-h/4705-h.htm#link2H_4_0032)

      Nevertheless, Hume’s explanation of how we form ideas from our impressions of objects sounds very much like Plato’s forms.

      Galileo

      The argument over Galileo is rather foolish one. I will tackle it in more detail when I respond to siriusbizinus.

      Your basic error is that you are trying to make a tempest out of what you have found in a teapot. Was there an argument over what the Bible supposedly says about heliocentrism? Yes. In fact, Galileo argued the Bible supports his position. Whatever Galileo was trying to do, he was not trying to disprove the existence of God.

      In our arrogance, we tend to make more of what we know than we should. That is particularly true of people in authority whose authority rests upon their expertise including the clergy. Nevertheless, when Newton established his three laws of motion and Kepler extended his Newton’s theories to describe the motion of the planets around the sun, that did not constitute proof God does not exist. And it is absurd to suggest such a thing.

      The controversy over heliocentrism arose from a simple problem, one basic fact. In the 1600’s, men were just beginning to track the paths of the planets. Try as he might, Galileo could not provide sufficiently convincing evidence to prove heliocentrism.

      Consider also that the people arguing about heliocentrism — on both sides of the issue — included quite a few churchmen. One of the popes asked Galileo to write down his thoughts. Unfortunately, Galileo inadvertently insulted that pope. Does that make Galileo some kind of hero? No. Galileo was a hero, but not because he insulted anyone.

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      1. CT, I’m disappointed you weren’t able to follow my thesis. I thought I was rather erudite explaining how Galileo knocked the foundation from under metaphysics and revealed it to be a method that didn’t work (because its suppositions were factually wrong). That means any explanation built on this metaphysical model doesn’t work to accurately reflect and describe reality. We can test that… and we have. It doesn’t work and Galileo’s inclined plane experiment demonstrates why: the suppositions are factually wrong.

        Because Christian theology relies on metaphysics, it doesn’t work to accurately reflect and describe reality. That’s why the evidence that should be present in reality to support the authority of scripture fails to appear, utterly fails to support even the most basic claims of the central tenets. Examples for this failure abound. That’s why the only way to support Christian theology and maintain belief that god is a causal agent in our reality is to continue to rely on metaphysics. Physical reality does not support these claims. That’s why non believers tend to respond with demands for evidence that doesn’t materialize. This profound absence is compelling evidence that the metaphysical model continues to fail. That’s not my fault or due to some perceived shortcoming in the character of non believers in gods or a god; it’s the fault of the method relied upon by believers continuing to use a method that produces conclusions and claims about reality that reality simply doesn’t support. The problem is that believers continue to insist that the metaphysical model really does work to reflect and describe reality while inserting metaphysical suppositions in reality’s place to support it. That’s why it’s a napkin religion: the napkin religion is the one true religion because it says so right here on this napkin.

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      2. Galileo’s new physics questioned the underlying assumption of Aristotelian physics, namely that mobility resided within the nature of a body, and replaced this assumption by articulating the principle of inertia, namely that a body in motion will continue to remain in motion unless another force acts upon it. The thought experiment of the inclined plane, whereby a highly polished ball rolls down an inclined plane onto a smooth surface, seems to be a simple idea: if the ball rolls down the incline, acceleration increases uniformly and the ball gains velocity. If the ball is forced up the incline, the ball will do so until violent force is dissipated, and then the ball will reverse course and descend. The important question to this experiment, however, is deceptively simple (quoted from Galileo’s On the World Systems):

        “Now tell me what would happen to the same body on a surface that is not inclined?” The character Simplico (the peripatetic philosophers backing the Church’s assumption that Aristotelian physics is an explanatory model that works to describe reality) answers that the ball would remain at rest but, if the ball were given an impetus he says, “I see no cause for acceleration or retardation since there is neither descent nor ascent” and, in the absence of cause for retardation, that the ball would roll perpetually if the plane extended indefinitely. Simply put, the nature of a body in motion in not an expression of the body’s nature but an expression of an exterior force placed upon the body. Mobility of a body is not an expression of the body’s form but the result of an exterior force.

        Galileo knew from his experiments of dropping different objects from various heights that the objects dropped at the same rate. He intuitively knew that a common force was at work and that the dropped objects were not expressing different natures but were behaving as if they were all the same objects. Motion, therefore, could not be an expression of different essences found within the different objects when the different objects all fell at the same rate. Galileo couldn’t identify exactly what the force was, but the inclined plane experiment showed the principle of motion did not reside within the objects but moved according to the forces acting upon them. Thus, the ground was prepared for a revolution in physics, a revolution that would forever change the way the nature of things was examined. The quest was begun to identify and quantify forces. Before the end of the seventeenth century, Newton would mathematically describe the forces of motion and gravity as immutable natural laws as valid on earth as on the moon.

        Galileo’s experiment fundamentally altered how mankind perceived itself. Aristotelian physics was a foundation of theology of the Church and the sciences of other institutions. Those who questioned the validity and worth of both were seen, and often treated, as a destabilizing force throughout Western civilization. Whereas Copernicus offered an alternative mathematical picture of the established celestial arrangement, Galileo revolutionized how nature should be perceived and left a legacy that would change the face of physics, question the body of established science, and offer a radical new way to perceive ourselves in the nature of things.

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  2. Hello there! There’s a couple points I’d like to make:

    (1) “However, church authorities were correct to reject Galileo’s flawed arguments (see Galileo affair).” I read the linked article, and it stated Galileo was being sarcastic with regards to his Jesuit detractors. One of them disagreed with his experiment without even looking through a telescope. If anything, Galileo lacked tact there. However, his proof was correct. Other astronomers confirmed his observations.

    Most importantly, Galileo’s observations (and Copernicus’s before him) do not depend upon God existing or not. They are observations of the universe, and explanations for the observations.

    (2) “Hence, the primary reason Christians, not Atheists, invented the scientific method is that God told us He had invented an orderly universe.”

    Actually, if you check out the Wikipedia article on the scientific method, you’ll find that it came out of a revival of the classics returning to Europe from Muslim scholars in the Middle East. That the scientists in Europe were Christians does not automatically provide for a conclusion that Christianity deserves credit for inventing science. Indeed, your points about the conflict between Galileo and the Pope do much to counter it.

    Christianity was just starting to fracture. The Catholic church was doing what it could to stamp out heretical belief. If anything, science became the rebellion against Church authority on explaining the natural world.

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    1. (1) “However, church authorities were correct to reject Galileo’s flawed arguments (see Galileo affair).”

      Actually, Galileo’s proof was wrong. Galileo believed the tides are cause by the affect of the gravitational forces from the sun on the earth. Actually, the moon generates the tides.
      Here are some additional references.

      http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/earth/galileo-big-mistake.html
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Discourse_on_the_Tides
      http://www.bethinking.org/does-science-disprove-god/conflict-myths-galileo-galilei

      Did Galileo’s observations depend upon the existence of God? Never said they did. What I said is that until people expected to find orderly explanations of cause and effect, they tended not to look.

      (2) “Hence, the primary reason Christians, not Atheists, invented the scientific method is that God told us He had invented an orderly universe.”

      I discussed this topic here => https://citizentom.com/2015/01/24/what-are-the-supposed-benefits-of-a-secular-education/#comment-56792.

      I don’t there is one single thing that made it possible for science and technology to advance the way it has in the West. In fact, I think the conditions for scientific progress are fragile. Nevertheless, I don’t doubt Christianity played a key role. You don’t agree? Shrug. Some things are not easily proved one way or the other, and this is one of them.

      I don’t doubt that the Muslims also kept copies of Greek literature. Before they seized the Middle East and North Africa, that entire area was Christian and fairly advanced. The Roman Empire could not suppress Christianity, but Mohammed’s successors figured out how to do it. Unfortunately for Muslims, that sort of intolerance interferes with the freedom of thought required by scientists — and with prosperity too.

      Thanks for your comment, BTW.

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  3. Without the belief in God, there would be no science (or knowledge), period. Our Creator is rational and logical, not the other way around. The creation is self-evident of a rational and logical Creator. God created man in His image and likeness. Mankind must also use reason and logic to observe, to measure, and to study His creation. Christians developed the empirical, inductive method of scientific research we take for granted today. Sir Francis Bacon, who was a Christian, is credited with the modern “scientific research method.” Before Christ Jesus, science (or knowledge) was obtained by deductive reasoning. Why? The ancients figured that only the mind ought to be used and thus labor was unacceptable to the higher classes, downgraded only to slaves or lower classes of society. Empirical research involves. . .you guessed it. . .labor. This is why the Aristotelian view of science was popular among the ancient elite class–it did not involve work. They considered themselves above labor. Labor or work was beneath them.

    As I mentioned in another post, Galilei, who was a devout Christian, transformed the world, that is to say, he replaced the Aristotelian view of science with an empirical or research view of science, which involves work, of course. Christians branched out into many areas of scientific discovery. Christians greatly impacted scientific processes and discovery and, ultimately, the quality of life. An excellent book, which is well-researched and well-documented, to read is “How Christianity Changed the World” by Dr. Alvin J. Schmidt, Ph.D. (I am toward the end of this book.) Most of what the world takes for granted today can be owed to Christians. And secularists consider Christians “anti-science?” Much, if not all, of what secularists rely on today was influenced by their Christian counterpart. How ironic?

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  4. Tom, In my opinion, trying to convince tildeb your point of view is what King Solomon would describe as “chasing the wind:” Pray for him instead. .

    Regards and goodwill blogging

    .

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      1. Well, having studied Galileo’s history, his correspondence, his writings, and works by others about this extraordinary man, I don’t feel swayed by your religiously induced wiki-informed opinion about this matter. Were you aware, for example that one of his daughters was a nun under the care of the Church who, during the trial, took ill and died? His other daughter required his protection… at the very house he was consigned to live out the remainder of his days.

        When you talk typical apologetic nonsense about Galileo, you reveal the depth of your ignorance about that time, place, politics, and the sensibilities and egos of the people involved. I doubt very much you were aware at how close was the friendship between Galileo and the Pope, for example, and the central importance of astronomy in the Church. What Galileo threatened using reality’s evidence to back him up was not insubstantial whatsoever but a huge threat to the Church’s authority. You probably were unaware that Copernicus refused to have his paper published before his death but was to be published immediately afterwards. These stalwart ‘Christians’ (nothing like today’s version let’s be very clear) knew perfectly well the impact in real world matters would be with their publications (and why they were very circumspect in ordering copies and sending them to particular people) and understood that all publications had to receive Catholic license to be ‘approved’ for distribution to avoid the charge of heresy.

        You presume to know enough about Galileo to think that because many of his favoured explanations were incorrect, his scientific results weren’t really that earth-shattering, that they didn’t really produce a very strong reaction within the ranks of the Cardinals and the nobles they represented (constantly vying for power and influence and money), that his publications weren’t all that astounding BECAUSE they knocked the metaphysical model out of the running. You also presume that because the church and its Cardinals (and the nobles they represented and the motives they brought into all Church matters) messed about with various scientists, that the results these scientists produced were somehow compatible with the Church itself. Well, many of these fellows knew exactly how important it was to deal correctly and carefully with the Church to avoid Galileo’s fate. This doesn’t make ‘Christianity’ compatible with science; it shows that the Church expected their scientists to understand which end of the leash they were on. Correct theology first, correct scientific results aligned with it. Galileo didn’t follow this rule (for a bunch of reasons) and he paid the price for his trust that what could be shown to be true would matter more to good religious people than submitting to a theology that was shown to be false. He had every expectation that theological interpretations would have to align with reality. He was wrong, and you and others on this are living proof that the same broken metaphysical model is still able to overcome what’s true in the minds of the feeble.

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        1. Do you say that from your or Galileo’s Point of view. Don’t bring your opinion into a matter of fact vs. opinion where you are representing the fact or your answer gets sloppy. If you are asking questions, then you may subject yourself to opinion otherwise remain at truth.

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